In 2011, Guardian journalist Deborah Orr achieved notoriety for a column she wrote in wake of Israel’s release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners – held for terrorist offences – in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped and held hostage for five years by Hamas, in which she accused Israel of racism due to the 1000:1 disparity:
“It’s quite something, the prisoner swap between Hamas and the Israeli government that returns Gilad Shalit to his family, and more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to theirs…[which is] an indication of how inured the world has become to the obscene idea that Israeli lives are more important than Palestinian lives.”
“At the same time, however, there is something abject in [Hamas’s] eagerness to accept a transfer that tacitly acknowledges what so many Zionists believe – that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbors.”
As we noted at the time, it would be hard to find a supposition more delusional in any mainstream outlet – arguing that an asymmetrical prisoner swap demonstrates racism on behalf of the party forced to agree to release a greater number of enemy prisoners. Even leaving aside the antisemitic ‘chosen people’ trope, Israeli leaders of course would have preferred to release only one Palestinian prisoner in exchange for Shalit – or none at all. It was the leaders in Gaza City – and not Jerusalem – who, with the leverage of holding an IDF soldier captive, was able to demand such a lop-sided exchange.
Though Orr, whose argument was described by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg as “almost comical nastiness”, eventually ‘apologised‘, it’s clear that her tortured logic survived the bruising, making its way through the British opinion echo-system such that Sky’s Kay Burley regurgitated the exact same assertion.
Her interview with Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy included the following:
The first question that left me speechless (but only for a second): pic.twitter.com/P4Bh0SKtl9
— Eylon Levy (@EylonALevy) November 23, 2023
As Levy said, the accusation legitimised by the Sky presenter is disgusting, and again demonstrates the pathos which informs much of the elite opinion in the West on Israel. It’s amazing this even needs to be said, but it is Hamas – with its antisemitic and genocidal charter – whose dehumanisation of Jews is such that their fighters gleefully engaging in the mass slaughter, torture, rape and mutilation of Jews on Oct. 7, while taking hundreds more, including babies, hostage, which is the racist party in the conflict.
Though Burley should apologise, it really doesn’t matter at this point. Her cover has been blown. The fact is that she allowed herself to be the conduit for a toxic and absurd accusation – a moral inversion of staggering proportions, one that can’t be undone.